Last weekend I was on a soft foam playground with my little girl, and I reflected on how different things were when I was a kid, shortly after dinosaurs roamed the earth. Playgrounds then were asphalt-covered, jagged-edged death traps for kids, but we didn’t know any differently and our parents weren’t freaked out about it. I vividly remember once hanging upside down from monkey bars and dropping onto concrete directly on my head (now that I think about it, that hit probably explains quite a bit about me). It’s a wonder that my generation survived childhood. What concerns me today is that my daughter’s generation will grow up so coddled that it won’t survive adulthood.
One New Hampshire elementary school has banned the game of tag during recess, because the contact is potentially harmful. “We want them running, we want them jumping and releasing the energy, but just in a safe way,” said principal Patricia Beaulieu. “They’re allowed to play soccer... basketball, there’s jump ropes, there’s different balls they can play with, different foursquare games out there.”
A middle school in Port Washington, New York recently banned footballs, soccer balls, baseballs and lacrosse balls on its playgrounds, because those “hard” balls are potentially injurious. Seriously? Theoretically, anything – or nothing – can be potentially injurious. A kid could break a wrist just by falling awkwardly. I support the idea of switching out dangerous playground asphalt for a bouncy, foamy substitute; but are we really helping our children by restricting their sporting activity to the bland safety of pitching Nerf balls underhanded?
In that same paranoid vein, the Postal Service announced it was scrapping a line of stamps depicting children in various forms of play such as skipping rope, walking and jogging, dribbling a basketball, etc. The reason? It received “concerns” from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition over apparently “unsafe” acts shown on three of the stamps: a cannonball dive into a pool, skateboarding without kneepads, and a headstand without a helmet (somehow they overlooked the horrifying images of a batter without a helmet, a girl teetering one-legged on a slippery rock, and a soccer player without kneepads). Apparently the Council feared the stamps would inspire kids to perform potentially dangerous acts – as if youngsters these days even know what a stamp is.